6 Reasons Why You Will Need To Get A Contested Divorce

So, you want to split from your spouse, and you want to ask for a divorce. There’s no chance you want to work things out or reconcile after a trial separation. A divorce is a legal way to permanently cut ties and dissolve marriages.

However, not all divorces are friendly or go well. Disagreements, deception and lies, and a spouse’s unrealistic expectations are reasons you may need to get a contested divorce.

Unlike an uncontested divorce, there are often items both parties can’t agree on. 

A contested divorce can take longer, but sometimes it’s the only way to get what you want. Which in most cases is far away from your soon-to-be former partner with the least amount of financial and emotional damage possible.

While it’s tempting to contest a divorce the second you hit a stumbling block, there are some legitimate reasons to do it.

Let’s review those six reasons and what signs to look for and act on.

1. Your Spouse Won’t Sign the Divorce Papers

Believe it or not, this happens. Maybe your partner doesn’t want a divorce or thinks you can still work things out. Perhaps they’re doing this as a way to retaliate against you or prevent the division of assets, such as your home. 

If you’re familiar with the movie Sweet Home Alabama, this is what happened. The character Jake kept refusing to sign the papers because he still held out hope that he could reconcile with Melanie. She thought about getting a contested divorce, so she could marry her current fiance. 

While things did end up working out between these two characters, real life rarely resembles Hollywood plot lines.

If the person you want to split from is refusing to sign the divorce papers, it’s probably validating your decision. Whether you can’t get along or want different things in life, your instinct to get a divorce is spot on. 

What Does a Contested Divorce Do in This Scenario?

When you file a contest of divorce in this situation, your lawyer or legal firm serves your spouse with additional papers. Even if they’re refusing to sign the original paperwork, a contest of divorce ensures a divorce will go through. However, you must state your grounds or reason(s) for dissolving the marriage.

After your spouse receives the contest of divorce paperwork, they have 30 days to respond. You’ll then go through resolving and deciding issues such as who gets custody of the children and who retains ownership of shared assets. If you and your partner can’t reach a compromise on these issues, a judge may decide for you.

2. Your Spouse is Hiding Assets

Marriage is supposed to be about sharing things, correct? Well, sometimes the person you marry isn’t completely honest about what they’re bringing to the table. That could be a Swiss bank account with millions or something slightly more modest like a rental property in New York’s Catskill Mountains.

OK, so maybe it’s just a car or a few thousand dollars. But whatever your partner’s got stashed away can change your divorce proceedings. If you signed a prenup and your partner didn’t disclose these assets, it’s even more of a big deal. 

When one partner isn’t 100% forthcoming about what they owned before the marriage or acquired during it, you can’t divide things equitably. Concealed assets or the suspicion that your partner is hiding things that are worth money is a good reason to contest a divorce. Otherwise, you won’t get your fair share of what you’re due under the law.

Concealing assets can impact everything from alimony to child support payments. It’s not just what you’re entitled to under some states’ community property laws. Contesting a divorce makes a loud and clear statement that you don’t agree with what assets and any amounts your spouse is disclosing.

Read More: Do You Have To Show Bank Statements in Divorce?

How Does Contesting a Divorce Help?

When you contest a divorce based on the potential concealment of assets, you buy yourself time and tools to figure out what your spouse is hiding. Once you uncover the concealed assets, you can add them to the paperwork or present them to the court. 

With a complete roster of who brings what to the marriage, a judge can finalize a more accurate division of assets and spousal and child support payments.  

3. Your Partner Has Unrealistic Expectations

A partner who has unrealistic expectations is tricky because the definition of “unrealistic” can be subjective. What you think is realistic may differ from your spouse’s and a judge’s ideas. But generally speaking, unrealistic expectations can include the following:

  • Expecting to get full custody of any children without granting you visitation, provided there isn’t a just cause.
  • Demanding alimony or spousal support payments that exceed acceptable income thresholds or percentages.
  • Requesting that they retain all the assets you shared or accumulated during the marriage.
  • Expecting you to delay any relocation plans by dragging out the divorce proceedings or requesting you remain in the same residence with them until the divorce is final.

While these examples are far from exhaustive, they give you an idea of what many consider out of touch or unrealistic. Your soon-to-be ex shouldn’t demand anything of you that they wouldn’t demand of themselves. And they can’t expect you to give up more in the divorce or put your life on hold until it goes through. 

Contesting a Divorce Sets Realistic Guardrails

A contested divorce gives you a chance to set things straight when your spouse has unrealistic expectations. It creates balance and equity between both parties. Although it’s ideal to go through an uncontested divorce with realistic expectations on each side, it’s not always a smooth process.

Contesting the divorce demands and papers lets you tell your side of the story and stand up for yourself. Divorce isn’t an opportunity to get taken advantage of. But sadly, some perceive it as such.

4. Spousal Abuse

Abuse your spouse commits against you during the marriage is a serious reason for contesting a divorce. Whether the abuse is physical, emotional, or mental, it can be a dangerous situation.

You may need to leave your spouse in secret and announce your intentions to divorce through a lawyer.

If you have kids, you may also need to move them to a safe location. This may prompt your spouse to act out or retaliate. They may not sign the divorce papers or try to find out where you and the kids are staying. 

Abuse perpetrators who agree to sign divorce papers may try to skew things in their favor. Attempting to withhold financial support or equally divide assets isn’t as uncommon as you think. Controlling or restricting finances is one way abusers attempt to manipulate or exert power over their spouses and exes.

Contesting Your Divorce

You may not feel like contesting your divorce when you’re an abuse victim or survivor. You might also become confused about your options. Know that the abuse isn’t your fault, and contesting your divorce may be the only way to get what you need and deserve.

In these situations, it’s best to discuss your plans and concerns with a legal expert. They’ll know how to navigate sensitive contested divorce scenarios and partner with other professionals, such as social workers. Don’t think these decisions are something you have to make or navigate alone.

5. Alimony Requests

Now that we’ve explored a heavy reason for contesting a divorce, let’s inject a bit of humor back in. Alimony and spousal support requests can sometimes be extraordinarily huge. Yes, way too big or an amount you couldn’t possibly afford.

It’s not that you wouldn’t like to be rich. Well, OK…maybe you are. But your spouse doesn’t deserve to kick back on the yacht all day while you continue to work your tail off. You and your partner might not agree on the amount their alimony or spousal support should be.

We’re talking weekly, monthly, and annually. Contesting this part of your divorce proceedings ensures you don’t get taken to the cleaners or stretch yourself too thin. That’s no fun and could bankrupt you. And then where will you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse be?

Contesting Spousal Support

Say your partner requests $5,000 a week in alimony, and you earn $50,000 a year. This is not only a stretch but unrealistic. You don’t even take home $5,000 a week, and you will have your own living expenses to cover.

A contest of divorce will show evidence of your gross and take-home pay. You’ll also show your budget for a place to live, utilities, food, and all the basics. In this scenario, your contest complaint might ask to reduce spousal support to $250 a week.

6. Disputes Over the Children’s Best Interests

A common reason why people contest divorces is because of disagreements over the children’s best interests. Living arrangements, custody requests, and visitation rights can spur arguments. But so can child support payments, especially if a spouse demands unrealistic amounts.

The state may garnish the wages of a parent who refuses to pay court-ordered child support. But a judge determines the amount during a divorce or separation, and it’s often for the parent who does not get full custody.

Those payments continue until the children turn 18. However, that period may extend if the children are legally disabled and can’t support themselves. 

Besides financial matters, relationships between children and their parents can come into play. A child is going to naturally want a relationship with both their parents. Visitation or partial custody requests only typically get denied in abuse or neglect cases. 

But parents sometimes use children as bargaining chips in a divorce and contesting it is necessary to ensure the kids get what they need. This includes emotional needs and the right to know both parents and their families. 

Read More: Understanding The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children

Contesting for the Children

Children observe and know more than what many parents think. A divorce is emotionally difficult for them, and they’re often torn between their loyalty to both parents. Seeing parents fight over what’s right for them usually makes the situation worse.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight for the rights of your children and contest unfair demands. However, you may want to enlist the help of a counselor to explain the situation to your kids in age-appropriate ways. You might also want to make efforts to keep most of your talks and contested negotiations private.  

Children have an uncanny way of internalizing or taking on guilt for a divorce. They may believe they’re at fault for the divorce or your arguments with your spouse.

Part of keeping your kids’ best interests at heart is removing them from tense conversations or situations that may cause them to blame themselves.

Getting a Contested Divorce

Contesting any divorce is far from fun. In a perfect scenario, you and your spouse would agree on everything and sign the papers without arguing or disagreeing.

But the reality is many partners disagree during their divorce proceedings. While some can work through those differences, others aren’t so lucky.

A divorce that one or both partners contest is one where they fail to reach a compromise on items they disagree on. Those items could include alimony payments, child custody arrangements, and whether to sign the divorce papers.

Yes, sometimes one person wants to end the marriage, and the other person doesn’t.

You’d think that person would cut their losses and move on, but not always. Sometimes you have to contest a divorce because your spouse won’t let go.

But more often than not, your spouse is not completely honest about finances or becomes unrealistic about the division of assets. Spousal or child abuse may be involved on the severe end of the spectrum.

These are typical reasons you’ll need to contest a divorce. No, it won’t be over quickly, and things could get ugly. But if you stick to your guns and have the right legal team on your side, you can negotiate and get the results you want. All is fair in love and war, right?